Since graduating college, I’ve never had a doctor. Seriously. Not for lack of insurance; from my first job post-college on I’ve never been without coverage, assuming that catastrophic plans like the one I have now count.
But while I’ve fortunately been relatively healthy in that span, that’s a bad way to go through life.
So why didn’t I have what’s, sadly, become known as a primary care physician? The aforementioned health, in part, but more because the current healthcare model simply didn’t work for me. Between not being able to pick from recommended doctors to paying exorbitant visit rates out-of-pocket due to bare bones healthcare policies, I simply worked on an as needed basis.
Which, while not cheap – a rusty nail through my foot cost me around a thousand dollars a few years ago, worked. More or less. But with the odds against it continuing to work indefinitely, I found myself in the market for an alternative. Ideally, an innovative alternative. While traditional small businesses such as coffee shops have been loathe to get creative with their business models, my hope was that the systemic failure in our healthcare approach would have driven some to adapt to the changing conditions. And so they have. They’ve adapted the model right back into the past, in fact, to the lamentably bygone era of GPs.
I found Doctor Christopher Bartlett via a flyer at my Portland gym, where he happens to work out himself. The part that caught my eye was the focus on high deductible healthcare plans; at $5,000, they don’t come much higher than mine. The model is very simple: cash-based, hourly service. In many respects, it’s much like legal or consulting businesses. The model in this case is instead applied to an industry that has become so byzantine in its regulations and procedures that it’s in danger of collapsing under its own weight.
Essentially Bartlett’s is a practice that cuts out the insurance layer. You can submit back to your provider if they accept out of network physicians, but ultimately this is a practice intentionally divorced from the traditional world of HMOs and primary care physicians. Which makes it suboptimal, clearly, if you’re an HMO participant. But for the rest of us, it really is the best of all worlds: reasonable and upfront pricing, no insurance company hassle, and outstanding quality of care.
Seriously outstanding quality, in fact. Doctor Bartlett’s webpage talks about the benefits of personalized medical care and direct access, and these have been obvious to me even on brief experience. A couple of weeks after getting a routine physical, I came down with my traditional late winter hacking bronchial cough. Contacting Doctor Bartlett via email, I received a recommended course of action a mere one hour and fifty minutes letter…in spite of the fact that he was in San Francisco at the time.
I could go on about the quality of care – his philosophy towards medicine is both progressive and open minded, and his manner is unparalleled – but the really interesting part to me is the model. Returning to the GP days of early might not sound like innovation, but compared to the reality of today’s healthcare system it can’t be anything else.
If you’re anywhere near Portland, ME, I can’t recommend Dr. Bartlett highly enough (the lawyer seconds that opinion), and if you’re not, you might want to look for a doctor like him your area. If the model works for me, it’ll pretty much work for anyone.
There are bigger questions to answer in the healthcare space, of course, but I’m leaving those in the hands of better minds than mine. Right now, I’m just happy to have found a doctor.